A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Learning abroad: Beechwood High School students, alumni visit historic sites in Greece, Italy

By David Kubota
NKyTribune reporter

Matthew Behrensmeyer, a Latin teacher at Beechwood High School, recently took a small group of students and alumni to Greece and Italy for a two-week trip.

The group consisted of Beechwood students and alumni, all whom had taken several of Behrensmeyer’s Latin courses. The trip lasted from May 30 to June 13.

Starting at the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport, Behrensmeyer and his students took a flight to Toronto, where they experienced a long delay. They then boarded a plane for a nine-hour flight to Athens, Greece.

Matthew Behrensmeyer (center) poses with several students during their two-week trip abroad to Greece and Italy.

The group visited many historic sites in Athens, including the Acropolis and the original Olympic Stadium.

They later traveled to Greek Islands such as Milos and Santorini, where the water is incredibly clear and blue. On the islands they hiked and explored various beaches and small catacombs.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” Behrensmeyer said. “It was in the 70s and 80s the entire time we were there.”

One of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to make and eat Baklava, a Greek dessert pastry. One of Behrensmeyer’s friends invited the group into her home and taught them how to make the dish. His local connections allowed his students opportunities that may be unavailable with traditional tours.

Leaving Greece, the group next traveled to Venice, Italy, where they met up with Ohio students from Mount Vernon High School, which Behrensmeyer attended. Now with a much larger group of around 20, they set off to explore Italy.

Not content with restricting themselves to just Venice, the group traveled all around Italy. They visited the famous ruins of Pompeii and relaxed in the coastal town of Sorrento.

All the hiking and moving kept the group quite active, at the end of some days their Fitbits would read over 40,000 steps.

They explored various historic sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Vatican, and the Pantheon. The group witnessed Michelangelo’s David and traveled to the island of Capri, the previous home of Roman emperors.

“The trip is great because I can finally show students what I’ve been talking about in class,” Behrensmeyer said.

Once again, local connections allowed them to experience various activities such as a ballroom dance class. They also attended a pizza-making class, where they learned how to make authentic Italian pizza.

Beechwood students have some fun while visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (Photo by Matthew Behrensmeyer)

“Giving the students these personal experiences allows them to appreciate other cultures and what’s going on in the rest of the world,” Behrensmeyer said.

Having been to these areas of Europe more than 10 times, Behrensmeyer hopes to give students an authentic experience that different and more personal than the traditional tours.

Lexi Decker, a Beechwood High School alumnus who took four years of Behrensmeyer’s Latin courses, went on the trip. It was her first time out of the country, and she praised his knowledge of the areas to which they traveled.

“Since he’s been so many times, Mr. B. knows all the good and bad experiences,” She said. “He can let you know if an item is overpriced and where else you can get it.”

Her experiences in his Latin classes also gave her a better appreciation of the sites and cultures she was experiencing.

“I made a Pantheon out of craft supplies for one of classes,” She said. “Then to actually see the thing in person was amazing.”

Another highlight of the trip was the hot springs at Saturnia, the water cascades down creating small pools that the public is free to enjoy.

The group eventually returned to Rome for the flight back to Cincinnati.

Behrensmeyer hopes to give his students access to new experiences, and to build upon the love of other cultures that was instilled in him by his college professors who inspired him to teach and study Latin.

In the future, Behrensmeyer hopes to take more of his students to Europe and open up opportunities to lead groups of adults there as well.

David Kubota is a Scripps Howard Foundation intern at the NKyTribune this summer. He is a student at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media.

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